Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Last Monday, after a delightful V.D. meal at Mysore Woodlands that included thali and the pink rose-flavored ice cream, vermicelli noodle and tapioca ball treat called Falooda, Jack and I watched the final hour of Salaam Bombay! on cable. It's Mira Nair (Mississipi Masala, Kama Sutra, Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair)'s groundbreaking 1988 opus about street kids in Mumbai, and required viewing....(incidentally Nair and her crew practice Iyengar yoga on set).

The following night I saw Bride and Prejudice (see two posts ago). Then I saw Hotel Rwanda (and recognized the Hutus' guns -- AK-47's, with the banana-shaped ammo clips). Then it was Maria Full of Grace (also excellent). And then the Station Agent (an amazing must-see. And not Italian, as I had thought). And somewhere in there I saw parts of Motorcycle Diaries, Barbarella, Saddest Music in the World and the Shape of Things (the last *really* sucked).

The chaser, this afternoon (hey, it's been slow work-wise), was Born Into Brothels, which I saw with Larry David Midwest (LDW), who is known for making an impatient waving gesture towards the screen (to move the film along) when things get slow. This did not happen. We were riveted. The documentary follows the lives of some kids who live in Calcutta's red light district. The filmmaker, Zana Briski, lived with and photographed them; the kids were so curious and interested in the results (as are the kids in the Mysore orphanage near Guruji's new shala) that she gave them cameras to document their lives. Their photos were so good, and the children such quick learners, that she tried to get them into boarding schools -- ie; a ticket out of The Life. Briski (and her co-conspirator and cameraman [and, we suspect, partner], Ross Kauffman) is so hooked up she had a show of their work in SoHo, sold it at Sotheby's (to raise money for their tuition) and got a Very Important Photographer (the guy from Press Photo) to come to Calcutta to talk to them; one of the students even gets invited to view Famous Photos in Amsterdam (he had a hard time with the ice skates). It's been nominated for an Academy Award... and makes me feel like a dirty left hand for doing nothing for the locals in Mysore. Maybe I'll think twice about my actions there when/if I go back.....

So I went full circle -- from Monday night to Tuesday afternoon -- from 1988's fictional view of Indian street kids, Salaam Bombay!, to 2004's (allegedly) more *real* depiction of them, Born into Brothels... and they realy complement each other. So if you get a chance --...

....and if you're *really* feeling tough, follow them up with another heartbreaking view of street life -- Hector Babenco's 1981 Brazilian masterpiece, Pixote. Then follow *that* up with 2003's Bus 174 , a documentary about the highjacking of a Brazillian bus by a previously invisible 21-year-old street kid, which played out live on TV.

Then go out and "do sumpthin!", as a crazed fan once screamed into my left ear during a Blackhawks game (back when there was hockey).

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